Arusha, December 15, 2003 (FH) - The lawyers of the former commander of the Para-commando battalion of Kigali, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, Monday raised doubts that their client could have had the power to run racist "political education" schools in Kanombe military barracks. One of the defence counsel, Andre Tremblay from Canada, was reacting to allegations by witness "XAP" -so-called in order to hide his identity- that Ntabakuze had organised special courses within the battalion on how to identify the enemy.

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XAP, a former member of the Para-commando battalion, was appearing in the trial of four senior officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) who are on trial for allegedly organising and supervising the 1994 genocide and massacres. An estimated One million Tutsis and Hutus members of the opposition were killed between April and July 1994The witness added that a brochure on the subject had been published in Kinyarwanda and distributed among the soldiers. The alleged brochure qualified the enemy as being Tutsis and Hutus members of the opposition. "If such a course ever took place at all, it could only have been planned from higher authorities" stated Tremblay. "And the official language of communication by the Rwandan army in 1994 was French. "He insisted that there were many contradictions in the witness's testimony for it to be credible. The lawyer pointed out that there was no way the overall commander of the Kanombe Barracks, Colonel Muberuka, could have been unaware of the alleged political education going on in the camp as the witness had testified. Kanombe Barracks housed many units of the ex-FAR. Tremblay also challenged the XAP's testimony that on the night of April 6, shortly after the death of president Habyarimana in a plane crash, Ntabakuze allegedly assembled 2000 soldiers of the barracks and extolled them to go out and kill all Tutsis. "The Para-commando battalion was composed of about 700 people. Those are the only ones that fell under Ntabakuze's command" Tremblay continued pointing out that the army is an organised institution and that his client could not order soldiers from other units. The witness claimed that shortly after the assembly, killings took place in the areas surrounding the barracks. Major Aloys Ntabakuze, 54, is jointly accused with the former director of Cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora,62, the former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi,52, and the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, 53. The prosecution considers Bagosora as the "mastermind" of the genocide. The trial is taking place in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse from Norway, Judge Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Judge Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. The trial continues Tuesday with the audition of the 36th prosecution witness. KN/AT/FH (ML'1215e)